Sunday, December 2, 2012

Probs. w/ abbrev.

[Context: I'm in the middle of finishing up two big research papers and staring at countless number of bibliographies brought this to my attention.]

If you're wondering what the title means, it's my way of saying "problems with abbreviations." It must be the careful attention to the little details that my professors here embody (for example, Carl Holladay is an amazingly careful and at the same time, a very charitable reader; he's been a great mentor thus far in many regards) which is affecting me, because I don't think I would have noticed this problem before. This is almost like an exercise in textual-criticism, so if you are into that kind of detail-oriented careful study, I hope you will find this somewhat interesting. Allow me to explain by way of showing you a screenshot of two bibliographies from recent works:

Do you see anything? I hope you do. It may not be a "big deal" I suppose, but I still think it's important to make sure you have the right references. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, I'm referring to how the two works refer to the same publishing house existing in two cities in the same year. So in 1977, Scholars Press existed (at least according to these two bibliographies) in both Missoula, Missouri and Missoula, Montana! Obviously Scholars Press did not exist at two places in the same year. So which one is right? Again, to go back to the analogy of textual-criticism, what is the "more difficult" reading? To put it another way, is it more likely that an author would mistakenly write "MO" for Montana or "MT" for Missouri? Without even having to search for the two cities, I chose the first option, which evidently seems to be the right choice (a search shows that a city called "Missoula" only exists in Montana).

I have not done a thorough search of the bibliographies of all the monographs, articles, etc., that are out there (I'm not even sure if this is possible), but a quick search yields a ton of secondary literature that cite "Missoula, MO: Scholars Press." While one might argue that this is all harmless, all of this is creating an entire tradition of "corruption" in terms of bibliographic integrity. My professors, when it comes to textual-criticism, preach an unyielding level of care and caution (rightly so), as not to introduce an error that further muddies the waters. In the same way, this is a message for anyone out there who is reading a book that is published by Scholars Press: Montana is abbreviated MT not MO.

[Postscript: I guess I could seriously be mistaken and that somehow Scholars Press existed also in Missoula, Missouri (simultaneously as Missoula, Montana), a city that no longer exists. I'm willing to be corrected, so if you know something, let me know.]

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